Wednesday, 30 October 2013

Old and new railway stations at Bukit Mertajam

Behind these few trees stands the old railway station at the end of Station Road in Bukit Mertajam. The building has fallen into disuse recently because the station has been relocated down the tracks (about two kilometres away along Jalan Permatang Rawa) due to the double tracking project. The new station is modern, unlike this old one which is steeped with nostalgia.

I was very surprised to see that all the old platforms have been torn down. Even the rickety metal overhead pedestrian bridge that enabled passengers to walk from the station building to the furthest platform had been dismantled. All that was left was a vast expense stretching from left to right and of course, the rail tracks.

The overhead bridge on the far right of this picture is not accessible from the railway station's grounds. It just stretches across the tracks and connects Jalan Megat Harun to the old quarters of Bukit Mertajam town.

In my opinion, the biggest casualty was that the old station signboards which displayed the name of the railway station to arriving passengers had also been removed. And, I have no idea what is to become of this old building itself. Big, big pity, indeed.

Anyhow, the building wasn't entirely deserted. Apart from workers and a security guard, there were three or four old timers spending their time here either reading newspapers or sitting quietly. For this latter group of people, perhaps they still couldn't get used to the fact that trains no longer stop here. No more passengers or their their waiting families. No more hustle and bustle of people two or three times a day.

But the trains still do go past the old railway station. About a minute or two before a train whizzes by, a whistle would go off, ostensibly to warn workers and trespassers off the tracks. Then the train would come rumbling by. But it doesn't slow down nor does it stop. No, it just goes speedily down the track and disappears into the distance. There's certainly a pang of helplessness when watching this unfold right in front of your eyes.

In the meantime, this is the spanking new railway station off Jalan Permatang Rawa in Bukit Mertajam. It was still work-in-progress when I took these pictures in late September. The station had just been relocated here. During a one-week transition period, vans were utilised to transfer arriving passengers to the old station just in case they had people waiting for them there.

These are the new platforms. I noticed that there weren't much activity either. The staff were just relaxing away until a train arrived. There weren't any extra train tracks either, or an increase in the number of platforms. But the station certainly was more spacious.

On the outside, life was just as slow when I was there. And the ticketing office was just a makeshift structure built out of old containers. So sorry that the staff had to work under such conditions until the building is fit for occupation.

This sign irked me a lot. But considering how the standard of English in this country has gone to the dogs, I am not surprised that Malayan Railways - that's what KTM stands for: Keretapi Tanah Melayu - had overlooked this very fundamental mistake that the new station's correct name should be Bukit Mertajam Railway Station. This wasn't the only signboard with the mistake. There were several dotted along the access road leading to the new station. Anyhow, if only KTM had saved the old station signboards and relocated them here instead of destroying them...

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